Dyatlov Pass – Mystery Solved

What really happened to the Dyatlov hikers?



In 1959 a group of Russian hikers disappeared in the Ural mountains. Months later their bodies were found, showing signs of mutilation, exposure to strange chemical substances, and exposure to radiation. We examine a new theory in this episode that we think solves this decades-old Russian mystery, involving the US Cold War spying flights orchestrated by the USAF Strategic Air Command and CIA, and a Chernobyl-esque nuclear accident at the Kyshtym plutonium enrichment facility which the Soviets tried to hide from the rest of the world.

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The theories about the reason for the Dyatlov party's demise run the gamut from kadabatic winds, to avalanche, to yetis and ghosts. But we think it far more likely that they were inadvertently struck by a photo flash bomb: a device dropped by a spy plane for night time aerial photography. 1, 2

There are documented cases of photoflash bomb accidents in America as early as 1938, and they were used regularly for night flight spy missions during the Korean War in the early 1950s. The photoflash bomb theory explains many of the mysteries surrounding the condition of the bodies of these hikers. The strange grey material on their bodies could be magnesium, burns to their skin could have been caused by proximity to the blast, photos of bright orbs in their camera film could have been the flash bombs themselves, seemingly frantic behavior that caused them to lose contact with each other, all of these details lend more credence to this theory of a photoflash bomb causing their deaths. 3

We think this is the most likely explanation for what happened to these people, and we cover all of the details in this episode. If anything, declassified books and documents from the US military give further weight to this theory about the Dyatlov party, as they paint a more clear picture of the mentality of the people in charge of operating the US military and intelligence agencies at the time. In particular, a declassified book from the CIA covers in some detail the disagreement between USAF officials Curtis Lemay and Jimmy Doolittle and CIA director Allen Dulles about the role of recon flights, generally. 4

We also talk a bit about the found-footage horror film "Devil's Pass" which is a pretty good encapsulation of all of the crazy theories about this incident in fictional form. 5

Over 200 members of US military and intelligence flight crews were shot down over Soviet airspace during the cold war. The vast majority of their families were lied to about their condition and whereabouts. As we publish this there is a brand new war brewing between Russia and NATO over control of Ukraine. Hopefully one of these days we get past World War II, but not today it seems...


1. Harrington Aviation Museum, Photoflash Bomb , American military design. 

2. Andrei Shepelev, Documentary promo (Russian), April 2021. 

3. The New York Times, Photoflash Bomb Wrecks Windows Near Air 'War', May 1938. 

4. Gregory W. Pedlow and Donald E. Welzenbach, The CIA and the U2 Program, US Central Intelligence Agency, 1998. 

5. Devil's Pass, written by Vikram Weet and directed by Renny Harlin, IFC Films, 2013. 

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